Teachers Institute Partnership Completes 40th Year, Publishes Curricular Resources

The following information about the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute was contributed by the program’s Josiah Brown.

Curriculum units that New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) teachers developed as Fellows in Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminars in 2017 are available at this website.

Half of the 2017 Fellows participated in the Institute for the first time; others did so for a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or even an eleventh time (eleven consecutive years in that case) – developing their and their schools’ teaching capacity through this District-University partnership.

Fellows represent a range of subjects, grade levels, and schools.  This year, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School has six Fellows, Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) four Fellows, and other schools one or two.  For example, Creed (formerly Hyde) Health and Sport Sciences High School has two science teachers who participated together in a science seminar.  A PreK-8 school with a science magnet theme, Martinez Sea & Sky STEM, has two Fellows who were in that same seminar.  In each of the cases of Cooperative Arts and Humanities (Co-op) and ESUMS, both humanities and sciences teachers participated in seminars – thereby advancing as well as complementing the schools’ respective themes.  A mathematics teacher from Wilbur Cross H.S. participated in a science seminar (creating a unit on “The Statistics of Watershed Science”), as did a science teacher from Strong School.  An elementary-grades teacher at Edgewood integrated science and humanities subjects through a science seminar, while a middle-grades teacher at Worthington Hooker applied a seminar’s focus on adapting literature.  Three of the 2017 New Haven Fellows – from Co-op, Edgewood, and ESUMS – were also in national seminars, among National Fellows from 20 school districts in eight states and the District of Columbia.

The new volumes of curricular resources contain units by New Haven teachers, who worked as colleagues with Yale faculty members in the humanities and the sciences who led concurrent seminars on campus during the spring and summer.  Fellows also participated in a lecture series by Yale faculty members across disciplines – talks to which other NHPS educators were invited, as well.  The seminar volumes are:

  * “Adapting Literature,” led by Dudley Andrew, R. Selden Rose Professor of Comparative Literature and of Film Studies
  * “Watershed Science,” led by Peter A. Raymond, Professor of Ecosystem Ecology

Literature, including Shakespeare, and Film; Science and Math

The curriculum units include appendices with references to academic standards they pursue in the teaching of English and other languages, mathematics, science, history, and art.  The units that Fellows prepared across the seminars are intended to challenge and motivate students, while complementing district curricula.  Many of the Fellows explicitly cited Common Core standards – from reading, writing, speaking and listening to mathematics, history/social studies, science and technical subjects – to which their units relate.  Increasingly, Fellows also cited the emerging Next Generation Science Standards, which Connecticut among other states has embraced.  In addition, in recent years Fellows have cited standards for such areas as arts; social and emotional learning (SEL); Spanish-language instruction (and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, ACTFL); and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

In introducing the volume on “Adapting Literature,” seminar leader Dudley Andrew observed: “… [F]ilms can bring to life (realize) some important ‘source,’ and … then become instances in which that source breaks into contemporary life.  Take Shakespeare…. each Shakespeare film interprets the bard through the lens of its own concerns. The adaptation can be looked at as a document of its society, or of the personality of the filmmakers behind it.  Teaching Orson Welles’ Macbeth or Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, especially in tandem, exposes Shakespeare to the light of cinema; meanwhile Shakespeare illuminates the values and concerns these film artists express in other films they have made…. Our seminar kept this kind of binocular vision from start to finish.  Sometimes we emphasized the contemporary version over its source, as in the case of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, the re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma in the world of 1990s Beverly Hills High.  At other times, we allowed various film versions of classic fiction to probe the structural core of their sources, as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wuthering Heights.  We insisted that every case be treated as two cases, every adaptation as the reworking of a source embodied in a certain way, with a certain style.  The only participant in our group who was not a language arts teacher (she teaches history) brought this issue nakedly before us via the 1960 film epic Spartacus, whose sources are the multiple Roman accounts by Livy, Cicero, Plutarch and others.  This film, it became plain, is not only an evocative, if dubious, secondary document representing the slave revolt that occurred nearly two hundred years before Christ.  Its value to history goes beyond the particular version of events that those Roman historians had interpreted in different ways; for it also stands as a primary document of its own moment in American history, which included both the onset of the civil rights movement and the denouement of the witch hunt carried out by the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Spartacus is an adaptation of the history of slavery by a writer, Dalton Trumbo, who had been jailed during the Hollywood Blacklist.  Thus the past and the present collude in every adaptation, whether from a literary or an historical source. This brings literature and history directly into the present moment.”

Professor Andrew continued, “Our seminar proceeded through case studies that sampled a number of categories of adaptation…. Comparisons are natural between the literary and the visual, but they can also be made amongst different visual forms.  Our seminar engaged with what school-aged children are most keen on: graphic novels, comic books, musical theater, TV. What are the attractions of each, and how does a given ‘public tale’ take its shape within one or several media?... Tabulating the chief theoretical issues that the subject of adaptation brought up, we found a) ethical problems involving actual or historical people and situations; b) aesthetic problems involving the specificity of each medium/artform; and c) cultural problems of fidelity to—or the carefree use of—a treasured source text…. We also studied The Color Purple, whose Broadway musical version vies with the Spielberg film as a way of extending, even multiplying Alice Walker’s novel.”  The seminar leader said, “‘Adaptation’ is the name for Darwinian processes by which species survive the changing circumstances of their environment…. Individuals, families, and large social groups adapt during the normal course of their life cycles, as when middle school children must adjust to changing classrooms, leaving the womb of their home classroom and the security of a single teacher…. We concluded our seminar with a thorough discussion of the self-reflexive 2002 film entitled Adaptation…. This film helped us realize that the subject of our seminar, a subject which may seem at first as nothing more than a commercial practice in the film industry, can extend as far as you like in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  The units that were written while all these topics were being discussed suggest some of the range of possibilities for adaptation study in the classroom.”

Valerie Vollono, who teaches English at Co-op H.S., participated as a Fellow for the first time in 2017.  She prepared a curriculum unit called “Jekyll and Hide: Repressing Society’s Undesirables.”  According to her, “The best thing about the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is the opportunity it offers to sate your intellectual curiosity.  Engaging in discourse and probing new texts with fellow teachers stretches analytical muscles that can go unused in our high school classrooms.  That’s a highly satisfying feeling, and it inspires you to delve even more deeply into your own research and curriculum design.  I enjoyed having the time and space to really explore ideas I am passionate about, in the context of new learning.”  She said, “Our seminar leader, Dudley Andrew, helped me to appreciate the nuances of film as a genre.  In the past, I’ve more often than not fallen prey to the simplistic snobbery of the ‘the book is always better’ attitude.  But that’s not analysis.  There are better (and much more interesting) ways to talk about film adaptations of literature.  I cannot wait to bring this new knowledge into my classroom and push my students to think beyond which parts of the book the movie left out.”

Regarding the volume on .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) seminar leader Peter Raymond explained: “A watershed is an area of land where all the rainfall and streams drain to a common point. Watersheds are determined by elevation and the contours of land, which determine the direction that water moves once it hits land as it forced by gravity back to the sea…. Watersheds can be small, such as those sustaining a headwater stream or small pond, or very large, when hundreds of small watersheds and their streams combine to form a river and its associated watershed.”  He said, “Watershed science is a combination of applied and basic research…. Since the boundaries of a watershed are clear it allows one to perform accurate budgets for things like water and pollutants.  One simply needs to determine the amount of a pollutant coming in with rainfall and the amount going out with streamflow and important insights can be gained. Furthermore, one can compare watersheds with different disturbance to try and constrain how these disturbances impact a pollutant.  Comparing two neighboring watersheds with very different densities of suburban houses, for instance, can help with the management of watershed.”  He emphasized, “Water is also considered a human right and an important part of watershed science is trying to understand how to manage and improve the amount and quality of water draining watersheds.  Many cities, for example, obtain their water from watersheds that drain into reservoirs.  Understanding how to manage watersheds to improve water quality is therefore critical for human well-being and the economy.  Finally, all other organisms also depend on water and how we manage watersheds is an important ecological consideration.”

Professor Raymond noted, “The reading list heavily utilized the Encyclopedia of Inland Waters, and occasionally the primary literature.  We started by going over some of the consideration of the watershed as a spatial unit and leveraging watersheds to do budgets.  Particular attention was paid to the processes that impact the water budget and understanding how scientists estimate watershed water budgets.  We then also spent time discussing watersheds, lakes and streams as ecological systems.  The next part of our seminar focused on the cycles of different elements and compounds in watersheds.  In addition to water, the seminar focused on nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace metals.  We spent considerable time talking about how some forms of land management (e.g., agriculture) lead to excess pollutants in and impacts on inland waters.  Finally we ended by reviewing and discussing different ways inland waters can be managed to protect against deleterious impacts.”  He continued, “The Fellows used this knowledge to pursue a range of topics. Some focused on the budget aspects of watersheds…. Others focused more on some of the impacts of humans on watersheds and water quality…. Others looked at how watersheds and water quality can impact the ecology of inland waters.”  In addition, “Many of the Fellows used this as an opportunity to educate on local systems … [including] the issues associated with the watersheds of New Haven.”

Laura Carroll-Koch, who now teaches grade 6 science at John Martinez School after having taught multiple subjects in earlier grades, participated as a Fellow for the fifth time in 2017 and is a Representative for her school.  Her new unit, building on a previous one that she prepared in a 2013 seminar led by Paul E. Turner of the Yale Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty, considers the “Life and Journey of Migratory Fish through the Connecticut Watershed, the Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean.”  She said, “The ‘Watershed Science’ seminar offered an extraordinary opportunity to deepen my content knowledge as it directly relates to our new school magnet theme of sea and sky.  Site testing at the Mill River, collaboration with Fellows, visits to the Yale lab, and the shared expertise of our seminar leader, Peter Raymond, enabled me to write an engaging unit that connects to our school’s magnet theme and complements a prior unit that I developed in Paul Turner’s 2013 seminar.”

A Guide to the 2017 curriculum units includes introductions by the Yale faculty seminar leaders, as well as summaries of each unit and recommendations from their authors about subjects and grade levels in which the units might be taught, beyond Fellows’ own classrooms.  Hundreds of additional units, spanning many disciplines, are available in school libraries or online through the Institute’s search engine, subject Index, and volumes from previous years.  These resources are for non-commercial, educational use by teachers, parents, and students of all ages.

Teacher Leadership

Teachers serving as the Institute’s 2017-18 school Representatives and Contacts are disseminating the new curricular resources while canvassing colleagues’ suggestions for seminar topics the Institute might address in 2018 to meet teachers’ and students’ needs across the curriculum.  Interested teachers should speak with a school representative.

Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s public schools. The Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools is a long-term endeavor to influence public policy toward teacher professional development, in part by establishing exemplary Teachers Institutes in underserved school districts in states throughout the country. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, a permanently endowed academic unit of Yale University, is completing its 40th year.

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